For the last five years, a thematic word to help guide the year has pretty much magically appeared in front of me anxiously raising its hand like Arnold Horshack crying, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Each year it has made complete sense to me as to why this word this year, and…this year is no different. 

My word for 2018 is (drumroll please)…joy.

Three little letters. So much power.

My previous words of the year were ripples, journey, grace, and mercy. They reflected years of struggle and the desire to make it through those trying times. So does joy as this year’s word mean that those trying times are past?

Of course not. Life is a series of challenges that ebb and flow but never completely depart. We know this truth.

But life is also a series of joys that ebb and flow but never completely depart. We know this truth, too…

But too often this truth gets lost in the challenges…at least for me. Like sedimentary rock, life’s hardships can sometimes layer on…and on…and joy can get tamped down underneath those layers, lost in the darkness.

Pretty soon, mired in the difficulties of life, the baseline becomes negative, and joy can hardly breathe.

And since the layers of life’s rock falls are ongoing, unless you make a conscious effort to grab joy’s hand and bring it along with you through the layers, it can die.

So this year I’m going to be much more intentional about holding joy’s hand and letting her hang onto mine.

I mean, what better time to make a purposeful effort to nurture joy than during this time of craziness we find ourselves in? It’s not exactly a world full of unicorns and rainbows these days.

All the more reason to seek joy.

Joy as my 2018 word came to me a few weeks ago…and then a powerful reinforcement of it happened this past week. I witnessed truly amazing grace as I watched a family struggle with the loss of their dear, sweet girl.

Amidst years of grappling with cancer—where the treatment so often meant endless days of feeling horrible—this young girl not only kept joy in her heart but made it her life’s purpose to spread it as best she could, too. And spread joy she did.

Though her years here were short, her legacy is already long.

Her unwavering soul kept joy steady in her sites amidst great suffering. She completely understood the necessity and power of joy. What more reinforcement do I need to do the same in much less trying circumstances? Her example will be a profound, ongoing reminder to me to keep hold of joy no matter what life throws my way.

Have you lost sight of joy?

In addition to life’s “normal” challenges, these chaotic times are rife with uncertainty, acrimony, intolerance—and greed reigning supreme. Joy can easily be a casualty. It’s understandable that we might forget to seek the moments that lighten our hearts and make us smile on the inside when we are living in instability, volatility, and times of incredible unkindness.

But if we wait to embrace joy only when it is placed right in our laps, our arms will be left empty.

This isn’t a call to put on rose-colored glasses and dance in denial. No…this is a call to keep joy present even in the midst of pain.

This, really, is one of life’s great triumphs.

A 10-year-old knew that, and she lived a triumphant life. In her wonderful, caring example, she is calling us to do the same.

In 2018 and beyond, I will do my best to follow her lead.

 

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour. 

…Man was made for Joy and Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go.


~From William Blake ‘s “To See a World”

 

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